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An Hourglass Shape: The Evolution of A City and the Unique Case of Limerick's Fortifications (1625). | Limerick Gazette Archives

An Hourglass Shape: The Evolution of A City and the Unique Case of Limerick’s Fortifications (1625).

Similar to Bristol’s significance in England as the second city in the kingdom, the famous cities of Ireland witnessed their own development over the centuries. A notable characteristic of Irish boroughs was the division between an English town and an Irish town, which was almost universal. The English town primarily occupied the island, while the Irish quarter stretched along the east bank, not exactly where the main streets are today but concentrated around the Bridgeway leading to the island.

Limerick stood out from the rest due to a particular distinction—the Irish town was encompassed by the city’s fortifications. In 1620, Luke Gernon, an Englishman working for the Lord President of Munster, described Limerick as having an hourglass shape, with the bridge over the Kings River acting as its narrow waist. The fortified base town spanned a mile in circumference, leaving travellers astounded by its unique features unparalleled in Europe.

Although these fortifications had already started to decay by then, the island city remained intact. The High Towne, an impressive marble structure resembling the colleges at Oxford, extended seamlessly from one gate to the other, showcasing its magnificence.

Limerick, with its extraordinary fortifications and architectural wonders, offers a captivating glimpse into the evolution of Ireland’s famous cities.

Limerick Gazette